5 Inspirational Anime Series About Hard Work

This blog entry is going to be a little different than my usual entries.

Last blog entry I discussed the differences between being inspired and being motivated.

In it, I mentioned that I’m inspired by those who struggle and work hard to achieve something great. There are a lot of inspirational events I’ve seen that illustrate this.

Whether it’s my fellow gym member who went to every single back-flips class for 3 years to master the move or the truck driver who spent any free time he had learning how to program in hopes of getting a better job. All of these stories show a high level of passion and continuous hardship to achieve their goals.

These inspirational stories do not extend strictly to non-fictional people either. Sometimes it’s just as good to be inspired by a fictional story as well, and it’s no secret that I enjoy anime.

So I compiled my top 5 anime series that inspire me to push myself harder towards my goals. Whenever I’m looking for ways to keep on pushing I can find myself looking back at any of these series to keep going.

#5 Silver Spoon

Silver spoon is the light hearted tale about the young high school student, Yugo, who found himself in the unusual Oozero School of Agriculture. After failing the entrance exams to his chosen school, Yugo decides to go to what he expects to be a much easier school. However, with waking up at 5:00 A.M. and spending 14 hours a day on school, required extracurricular activities, and other work, Yugo finds that this school is anything but easy.

One of the most admirable concepts of this anime is how it touches base on a number of life’s problems many of us have felt before. Our character, Yugo, is thrown into unfamiliar territory. In the first episode, we find that his classmates all hail from an agricultural background with each student already set on where they want to be once they graduate. Yugo, on the other hand, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life.

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For most of the series, Yugo is simply focused at being the best at what he can do and works his way to the top of the class. Although, this does not come without difficulty. While Yugo is able to master the core subjects, he struggles with very fundamental concepts about agriculture, something his classmates are able to do with ease.

One of the most evident examples that show the differences between him and his classmates level of expertise is in episode one. After getting back his exam results, Yugo prided himself for acing a test in admiration of his classmates. This pride is soon crushed when he listens to his classmates discuss animal cloning. His classmates, whom most of which failed the exam, carry on an entire conversation about college-level molecular biology that completely goes over his head.

It’s nice how quickly Yugo’s illusion is broken when he finds out that being the highest ranked student in the class does not automatically make him the smartest person. Yugo is constantly pushed out of his comfort zone in this series and, as a result, ends up growing up to be a more mature, compassionate person. He finds challenges in life where he realizes that simply putting in effort and having a dream is not always enough. In the end, it’s about coming to grips with reality in order to produce results that leads to success.

This show does well to drive its message home while keeping it comedic. Through the use of visual gags and likeable characters we’re able to get a good laugh from the series then emphasize with the down-to-earth problems the characters face. I applaud the variety of personalities each hard-working classmate has. The large diversity in characters helps us understand each person’s struggles and sympathize with them when they hit a wall in life they cannot overcome. It also drives home a valuable lesson that when a struggle becomes too difficult, sometimes it’s best to go down a different path in order to move forward.

#4 Hunter x Hunter (2011)

In the world of Hunter x Hunter, humans live in a land where mythical beasts and magical artifacts are commonality. Understandably, the most dangerous areas of the world remain restricted to humanity unless they have earned the respected title of Hunter.

Our series follows protagonist, Gon Freecess, who, upon learning his thought to be dead father is an accomplished hunter, sets off to take the hunter exam. Although the exam proves to be a huge undertaking where thousands of applicants set off to take the exam but only a handful of them pass each year.

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When I first watched this series I quickly drew similarities between it and Dragon Ball. However, this Hunter x Hunter quickly establishes itself as its own thing by separating itself from similar Shonen anime tropes. Our characters, while likeable, have flaws that are not easy to over come, and has caused tragedy to those around them. Never before have I ever watched an anime series without feeling tense that there is a very real possibility these characters will not survive.

The idea of being killed so easily ends up influencing how our characters fight.  Instead of solely relying on strength, our characters find they need to rely on reflexes and wit in order to win. This is a really admirable direction Hunter x Hunter takes. Our characters, although established as strong, are often pitted against enemies that vastly outclass them in terms of strength and skill. The fighter who gets the upper hand in battle is the one who thinks better on their feet. Rather than spouting an inspiration speech of getting a power up, our characters assess the situation and take risks(sometimes fatal) to outwit their opponents, just enough to either flee or land a critical blow.

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While a lot of the cast are shown to be both strong and clever, these traits are not the reason Hunter x Hunter is on this list. What makes this anime truly inspiration is how gradual each character grows. Hunter x Hunter rarely introduces a strong character whose abilities stem through natural talent. These characters are shown to have endured the worst they can put their minds and bodies through to get where they are. For them, to grow their abilities a tiny bit they are shown to endure harsh training that takes a prolonged period of time.

Truly, Hunter x Hunter illustrates that in order to really progress you can’t rely on training montages, inspirational words, or pulling a new technique out of the pocket. Rather if you want to win the battle you will need to put your mind and body through hell repeatedly for a long time.

It’s no surprise this series has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest anime series out there. Although this series was put on hiatus since 2014, the 149 episodes released so far has been smart, wild, and overall, inspiring.

#3 Hajime No Ippo

Hajime no Ippo is one of the few sports anime series I’ve watched and enjoyed. The protagonist, sharing the same name as the show, is a young high school student named Ippo. Ippo lives with his widowed mother and spend all of his free time helping support their family’s fishing business. Because he never has time to hangout with his classmates, Ippo finds himself often alone and bullied.

However, one day while he was walking home from school, a group of bullies come up to him and start beating him up. A passing jogger, later known as acclaimed boxer Takamura, sees Ippo being picked on and scares away the bullies using quick feints. Ippo is taken to Takamura’s boxing gym where he meets the gym owner, Genji. Genji teaches him how to do a basic punch and finds that Ippo has a natural talent for boxing after he sends the punching bag flying.

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Ippo then starts his boxing career and trains to become one of the most talented and hard-hitting boxers over the course of several years. Throughout his journey we see Ippo push himself hard and slowly rank himself up with each victory. He also interacts with other boxers he meets along the way. Each of these boxers have their own varied skill set and talents that make their training style unique. From the gifted boxer who never loses a match, to the fighter who relies solely on technique, to the fighters who train hard but just can’t make it to the top.

This diversity helps illustrate a number of different characteristics when it comes to skill-building. The first being how everyone who wants to follow their dreams will not often start at the same place and the same level. There are some characters who are good at boxing because they were able to train when they were young. Then you have those characters who do start boxing at the same time, or later, but end up excelling at it faster because of their natural talents.

Despite where they start, the journey for them to improve is never an easy route. The series is not short(with over 3 seasons and 126 episodes) and the series is not one to compress story arcs. Often we see several episodes dedicated to a character trying to either learn or improve on a move before a big fight. This leads to them going through several months of intense physical training just so they can get slightly better doing certain punches.

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I felt that unique approach speaks volumes about something we’re all too familiar with. A lot of these characters pick up the basic boxing moves within a year then move on to doing fights. However, there comes a point in time when a fighter will hit a stride and find themselves pushing themselves hard but not improving as fast as when they started out. This is a training plateau many of us can relate to when trying to master a skill.

I’m sure we all hit that point when we first learn a skill and feel like we are picking up things pretty quickly at first. Eventually, that pace starts to slow down then it takes a lot longer before noticing any improvement. Hajime no Ippo follows suit to this. Often our characters find themselves having to spend countless hours/days/months/years just so they are slightly better.

The diversity of characters helps demonstrate the typical routes a lot of people end up going about tackling gradual improvement. There are those who continue to train at the same level and find themselves never getting any further in their abilities and there are those who push hemselves by doing a harder regime and gradually work their way up over time. Sure it may be long and difficult, but with patience and strive, progression will happen.

Hajime no Ippo does an excellent job to illustrate an important part of skill development. It’s not about dealing with the big picture, rather, it’s about tackling one small task at a time. By breaking down that much larger goal to small, incremental ones, achieving that level of mastery becomes more obtainable. This is why Haijime no Ippo places itself on my list of inspiring anime series.

#2 One Punch Man

Whenever anyone thinks of an inspirational anime series One Punch Man will very likely come to most people’s mind. In a world where super heroes and super villains exist, the hero, Saitama ranks right up there as the strongest hero out there. While he largely goes unnoticed in the world Saitama has proven himself to be an unbelievably strong character able to defeat his opponents with just one punch.

Our protagonist, Saitama, is somewhat of an unusual character. Mainly because he’s unlike your typical anime hero. He did not gain his power through some mystic artifact, technological upgrade, or born from some extraterrestrial being. No, our hero just stuck to a good old exercise regime every day for 3 years. What is his routine?

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With just a little strength routine, 3 meals a day, and going without A/C or heat, Saitama has achieved God-like strength. However, such a simple strength regime seems a bit silly to achieve such power.

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However, Saitama tells him that there was really nothing more to it. He dedicated himself to this regime and got to where he is today through it. A very simple idea that may strike a chord for many viewers. There is no secret formula for success, it’s just a combination of sticking to good habits and slowly growing over time. There are many people out there who thinks that there are little hacks to lose weight or become a millionaire, but those same ideals is what causes us to lose focus on the very simple concepts we know will get us there. We often ignore the routine that leads to success in favor of an easier solution.

Being dedicated to good habits is not the only thing that makes Saitama a truly admirable character. Saitama has one thing that separates him from many of the heroes and villains out there. His power is largely unknown among many. Mostly this because of how modest of a character Saitama is. He doesn’t care if he gets credit for his work, in fact, he often goes out of his way to not credit himself. Saitama is a very Taosit-like character. He recognizes himself as strong and doesn’t feel he needs to prove this to anyone. Instead, he will go without the flow of the world and intervene whenever a situation get too dire.

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Saitama truly illustrates the idea that it’s the result of your hard work that matters more than the person who does it. When I thought of Saitama’s personal beliefs and resistance for appraisal, it gave me an epiphany.

Take a look at the things around you. We live in a world of technological advancement but the majority of us aren’t really sure who invented it. This is because a thousand years from now, we aren’t going to care who invented our every day conveniences rather more about the influence it has on us. Personally, I feel making a difference in someone’s life matter more than being known for it.

This series has made it’s mark as one of the most popular anime out there, and for good reason. With a perfect blend of comedy and action we are taken on one entertaining ride throughout.

#1 Bakuman

Hard work, conceit, and luck.

These are the three attributes needed to be successful in the manga industry. That’s at least what our protagonist, Moritaka Mashiro, believes.

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The story of Bakuman follows an aspiring young artist who has long forgone his dream of being a Manga artist after the death of his uncle, a professional Manga artist who worked himself to death. It wasn’t until top-class student, Akita Takagi, approached Mashiro asking him to partner up and become managa creators together.

Mashiro, reluctant at first, joins Takagi after being tricked into confessing his love to long time crush, Miho Azuki. Azuki agrees to marry Mashiro on the condition that both Takagi and Mashiro create a manga successful enough to become an anime and Azuki lands the role to voice the leading female charactermarryWhat follows is several years of Mashiro and Takagi working through various successes and failures in attempt to get their manga popular enough to be picked up by an animation company. What ends up separating this anime from the rest of the list is the down-to-earth nature of the show. This anime is adapted from the popular manga with the same name, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. If you are deep in your manga creator knowledge those names might be familiar to you for iconic show, Death Note.

Throughout Bakuman, Ohba and Obata do well to draw in their experiences to the series. It’s very easy to emphasize with these characters as they go through a roller coaster of successes and failures in attempt to reach their goal. Throughout the series we find our two protagonists go through many sleepless nights working, constant anxiety to make their work successful, and even working so hard one of the characters ends up in the hospital.

With each failure these characters take it as an opportunity to grow. Despite them being, what many would consider, talented at what they do, they find that they need to try and fail a lot if they want reach their goal. Alongside them is a wide variety of characters. Including Eiji Nizuma who is known as a “Manga genius” able to produce work that becomes huge hits in far less time than our protagonists can. As well as other characters introduced in the series who also dream to become future manga artists.

 

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A lot of these characters have different kinds of personalities and talents to them, but nonetheless are supportive to one another to follow their dreams. These characters also have their share of successes and failures we’re familiar with. Some of these failures drive these artists to reach out to others to improve themselves. While others end up giving up on their dream. Those who do succeed are the ones who have spent half of their lives trying and failing to get there.

It’s sense of realism adds a feeling of empathy for many of these characters. Like many of the characters, we have all failed when trying to reach a goal. We may have found ourselves discouraged to keep trying after we see people who seem to succeed in our dreams with seemingly no effort. But what makes this anime truly inspiring is, despite our failures and successes, what really matters it to still work hard and improve.

This will involve going through a lot of different events in our life. We need to find people out there who will support us and we need to support them. We need to get out of our comfort zone and prepare for failure. We also need to build up a portfolio that shows what we’re capable of and that we can improve.

Bakuman does a really great job demonstrating all these attributes and has taught me quite a few things about working towards my goals. For these reasons Bakuman earns its spot as the #1 most inspirational anime series out there.

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Inspiration Is Not Motivation

A few weeks ago I was asked to think about the things that inspires me. Now I can rattle off a million different things from the top of my head, but in the end many of them do not really inspire me. They just motivate me.

I feel like there is a strong difference between motivation and inspiration and many definitions get thrown around to define both of them. Personally I think of them as this:

Motivation is that temporarily feeling you have to get off your butt and work towards a goal.

Inspiration is that drive to put continuous effort towards achievements meaningful to you.

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Sure you may feel motivated when you watch that montage of the guy doing flips off a roof or seeing that Olympic athlete break another world record, but it’s never enough just to see the accomplishments to be continually driven to work towards them.

So what really inspires me?

Seeing the struggles of others working hard to achieve great things.

It’s seeing those people who keep trying even when it stops being fun . The ones that put in blood, sweat, and tears towards their dreams. The stories of those who try, fail, then get back up and try some more.

When you see the struggle it takes for others to master something it helps take off that skill-level barrier we put up between ourselves and the experts. Everyone who tries something for the first time will be bad at it. The ability to become good at something depends on how much you practice doing it.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” ~Frederick Douglass

If you’re trying to land that back flip, learn a new skill, or lose weight. The important part is to never give up and just keep going.

So what inspires you?
How do you handle the struggle of learning something new/difficult?

Would love to hear from you in the comments!

How To Make Impossibly Large Tasks Easy

Imagine what you want to complete if you had all the time in the world. Do you want to write the next American novel? Start your own multi-million dollar business? Climb Mt. Everest?

Heck, some of us may dream of playing guitar at a venue with thousands of adoring fans, but do not even know how to play a single note.

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Whatever that dream may be, for one reason or another, you are not doing it. There could be a lot of reasons why this is the case, and some may have very valid reasons, but for the vast majority we tend to have the same excuse:

“I don’t have enough time”

But that’s just the trap a lot of us fall victim to. We are all thinking of these dreams as one large task that has to be done in a short amount of time. This only causes us to be intimidated by our long-term goals and put them off all together. Instead, I want you to start doing this:

Don’t Think About The End Result

When Computer Programmer, Matt Cutts took the challenge of doing something new every 30-days there is one thing he started doing to take on the more difficult task of writing  a novel:

Matt points that that a typical novel is about 50,000 words total. That may seem pretty big at first glance, but when Matt broke it down he found that he could write a novel if he spends every day, for 30 days, writing just 1,667 words.

That’s what it really comes down to when finishing large projects. If you really want to get that project done stop thinking about doing it all at once and instead:

Do a little bit each day

If you want to run a marathon you don’t do it by going out and running 20 miles(32km) a day. You start off a training plan months in advance and run just a few short miles each day than gradually build yourself up to that full distance.

However, it’s not enough just to do a small bit each day. If you do not set-up some rules for yourself beforehand “Doing a little bit each day” can end up giving you as much benefit as opening up Microsoft Word than watching television the rest of the day. If you truly want to make your work meaningful you will need to something more.

Make It A Habit

When web developer, Alexandar Kallaway, really wanted to commit to being a better programmer he invented a challenge known as 100 Days of Code. His rule for this challenge was simple:

“I will code for at least an hour every day for the next 100 days.”

That’s it. It’s a challenge that floats up often in the programming community and there are thousands of people who take it up. The result? People who never even picked up a programming language before are now writing fully functional applications and frameworks in just over three months.

While this has good intention, for some of us, 1 hour of doing a task for 100 consecutive days may be a bit much. Kallaway sure thought the same. Which is why he made an updated version of the challenge. He included some new rules like including a taking a break. If you miss a day, that’s fine, instead of tapping out of the challenge you simply continue it like normal trying not to miss two days in a row.

This is really smart because it’s difficult to commit to 100 days of a habit when every day of our lives is not the exact same. That is why when we want to commit to this challenge, it’s crucial to do one important thing.

Make It Work For You

Before taking up this challenge(or something similar to it), do not dive head first into it by immediately doing an hour a day. Instead, start small than build your way up to it.

This means just starting out with committing to as little as 5 minutes a day. This gives you plenty of time to write that one sentence for your novel or to learn a new word in a foreign language. Even if it’s just a little bit of progress, it’s still progress.

As you feel more comfortable start moving your commitment to 10 minutes, than 20, than 30. When you are feeling perfectly comfortable with 30 minutes a day, don’t just move straight to 1 hour a day. Instead, break it down to 2 Promodo Sessions a day.

What that entails is breaking your tasks into 2 25-minute sessions followed by a 5-minute break. Remember it’s about breaking down the larger tasks into small, more manageable ones.

There are at least 24 hours in the day, 168 hours in a week, and 672 hours in a month. You only need to spend a small portion of that time each day working towards your goal to make a meaningful impact. Remember, when you want to achieve your goals it’s not about the destination, but the journey towards it.

Note: If you’re looking for a good Promodo application I would recommend looking into Be Focused, Goodtime, or Mariana Timer. All three of these tools are free to use.

Epic Quest of Awesome

It’s Day 5 now since I started questing at Nerd Fitness Academy, and I have to say, the experience has been very fun so far. As I battle Bosses and Gain XP I am working each day to try to implement Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life ideals into my own.

This of course, means making my own Epic Quest of Awesome(Which, in short is a gamified bucket list). I have overlooked my Impossible List carefully and followed suit to separated each item into it’s own Quest Category.

Each Quest is worth 20 XP. After every 100XP is hit(or 5 Quests total) I gain a level. In addition to regular quests there are also Master Quests, extremely difficult quests that automatically level you up once you hit them.

The one tweak I’m making to my EQA draws from my Runescape-playing days, and color code the quests. Each Quests will be colored as such:

  • Quest Completed
  • Quest Started
  • Quest Not Started

Russ’ Epic Quest of Awesome

Below you will find a list of what I want to accomplish over the years. My Epic Quest is a progress and is subjected to change over time.

Completed Quests

Level 2

Level 1

North America Quests

  • Rock Climb Devil’s Tower
  • 50 points in 50 States(2/50)
  • Snow Board in Jasper, Canada
  • See an Aurora Borealis
  • Hike the Ice Age Trail(More Info.)
  • Strawberry Hill(More Info.)
  • Corn Palace(Morn Info.)
  • Travel to Canada

Central/South America Quests

  • Backflip on top of Macchu Picchu

Europe Quests

  • Paraglide in Chamonix Europe
  • Step foot in Sweden
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride in Sweden
  • Marcle Aches Cave(More Info.)

Africa Quests

  • Surf in Killer Point Mocorro

Far East Quests

  • Go to a Japaense Hot Spring
  • Bunny Island, Japan
  • Fuji Mountain Race(More Info.)

South Pacific Quests

  • A Simple Walk Into Mordor(More Info.)
  • Scuba Dive Australia’s Coral Reef
  • Bungee Jump off Victoria Fall Ridge

Ninja/Strength Quests

  • 10 Years Martial Arts(1/10)
  • 10 Years Weaponry(0/10)
  • Complete All Fitocracy Quests(More Info.)
  • Run Alpha Warrior(Texas & California)(More Info.)
  • 5 No-Kip Muscle Ups
  • 15 Second Human Flag
  • Sign White Block at Fight or Flight Academy
  • Post a 5-Minute Parkour Montage
  • Pick a Master lock

Flips & Twists Quests

  • Front Flip
  • Back Flip
  • Aerial
  • Side Flip
  • Corkscrew
  • 540 Kick

Personal Level-Up Quests

  • Skinny Dipping
  • Cliff Swinging
  • Make Food(Cheese, Wine, Yogurt)
  • Visit A Sunken Ship
  • Take A Sniper’s Course
  • Get a Wax
  • 1,000 Photo Challenge[Progress]
  • 1,000 Geocaches
  • Spontaneous Vacation

Rock Star Quests

  • [PIANO] Piano Man By Billy Joel
  • [PIANO] Roses and Butterflies By Making April
  • [PIANO]  Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [GUITAR] Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [HARMONICA] The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan
  • [HARMONICA] Piano Man By Billy Joel

Education Quests

  • Get a Helicopter Pilot License
  • Become SCUBA Certified
  • Learn to Sail A Boat
  • Get a Motorcycle  License
  • Publish a Mobile App
  • Write a Novel
  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree

Les Stroud/Survivalist Quests

  • Score 300 With Recurve Bow[More Info.]
  • Make Deer Jerky
  • Finish a Survival Adventure Race[More Info.]
  • Wilderness First Responder Certification
  • Waterfront Lifeguard Certification
  • Build and Shoot Arrows from Scratch
  • Take a NOLS semester Course[More Info.]
  • 7-Day Survival with BOB
  • 21-Day Survival, only Knife

Running & Races Quests

  • First Marathon
  • Barefoot Marathon
  • Minneapolis Ground Rounds(51 Miles)(More Info.)
  • 50-Ultra Marathon
  • 100-Ultra Marathon
  • Spartan Sprint
  • Spartan Super
  • Spartan Beast
  • Spartan Trifecta(Sprint + Super + Beast In 1 Year)
  • Triathlon Sprint(750m S/20K B/ 5K R)
  • Triathlon Olympic (1500m S/40K B/ 10K R)
  • Triathlon Half-Iron(1.2 mi S/90K B/21K  R)
  • Triathlon Iron(2.4 mi S/180K B/42K R)

Events/Conferences Quests

  • Eeyore’s Birthday
  • Room 13 San Antonia[More Info.]
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Cirque De Loteil
  • Google Local Guides Summit
  • Red Bull Art of Motion

Financial Quests

  • Have $10,000+ in Saving before 2019
  • Adopt a Minnesota Highway
  • Earn 1,000 Subscribers on Challenge List

Master Quests

  • Get A Career Allowing Me to Live Anywhere
  • Completed a Barkley Marathon[More Info]
  • Obtain a PhD

Challenge List Mini-Quests

 

 

 

 

2017: Year of Productivity

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It’s another year which means it’s once again time to reflect on last year’s accomplishments and start looking towards what we want to do in the new year.

For many of us, this means making resolutions that we plan complete, but for one reason or another, never do.

I, for one, hate the idea of resolutions. I feel that most of the time when people make resolutions they make them very general and uninspiring. In the end, a lot of people never keep up to their resolutions and drop them all together by early February.

This is what led me to create The Challenge List, in which I set out a number of challenges for myself and try to complete them before the end of the year. These challenges are made to push me out of my comfort zone and improve both the mind and body.

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing what I learned form taking on these challenges. During my journey I’ll also be experimenting with different productivity methods and utilizing ideas from Tim Ferris, Charles Durhigg, and other productivity experts. As I try out these productivity ideas I’ll be posting what worked and what didn’t,and what can be learned from applying these concepts.

2017 Challenges

Progress: 6/20
Last Updated: July 24th, 2017

  1. Swim 2 Consecutive Miles in Open Water
  2. Finish a Tough Mudder[ACCOMPLISHED July 15th, 2017]
  3. Take a BOB Survival Course
  4. Shoot 150 Points in Archery[ACCOMPLISHED June 29th, 2017]
  5. Develop A University Capstone App
  6. Obtain my Bachelor’s Degree
  7. Get into Advanced Krav Maga Classes
  8. Get into Intermediate Swords Classes
  9. Get into Advance Parkour & Free Running Classes
  10. Climb Black Edge Peak, South Dakota[ACCOMPLISHED July 19th, 2017]
  11. Earn a Front-End Web Dev Certificate at Free Code Camp
  12. Be a Nerd Fitness Rebel for 365 Days
  13. Finish A Triathlon Sprint[ACCOMPLISHED June 3rd, 2017]
  14. Post 50 Blogs in the Challenge List
  15. Make a 5-min Parkour video
  16. Read A Productivity Book A Month
  17. Become a Level 4 Blacksmith on Habitica
  18. Make Cheese
  19. Snowboard Down Green Circle Slope[ACCOMPLISHED February 19th, 2017]
  20. Get a Development Related job [ACCOMPLISHED February 28th, 2017]

You can follow me on my journey by clicking on the Follow Button on the right side of the screen. If you also have any Challenges or Goals for 2017 let me hear them in the comments below!

10 Apps To Eliminate Distraction And Become Focus Driven

“Distraction destroys action. If it’s not moving you towards your purpose, leave it alone” ~Jermaine Riley

Whenever we work we often find ourselves battling one of our greatest enemies, distraction. It is that obstacle that keeps you from writing that essay, finishing that long-term project, or just stopping you from getting things done. It becomes even more difficult when we are living in an age where distractions are just a click away.

Despite how valuable the internet has become the endless cat videos and memes have made it far easier for us to procrastinate. Luckily, there are tools out there that work to combat against these distractions. Below are my picks for the top tools to make you the focus-driven worker you set out to be.

StayFocused

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Chrome

StayFocused has held it’s reign as one of the top contenders for website blocking, and for good reason. StayFocused is highly configurable, allowing you to block any websites in a domain or just specific sub-domains. You set the time for how long you want to block it when you want to block it. If you don’t want go cold turkey quite yet StayFocused also has the option to set how many times a day you can access a webpage before it blocks it.

Price: Free

BlockSite

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Chrome

BlockSite is the plug-in I am currently using to block distracting websites. While it may not be as configurable as StayFocused this plug-in is just as excellent for getting the job done. BlockSite allows you to create a blacklist of sites and provides a quick-add option to any site you wish to block.

One of the reasons I love this tool is the built-in search filter. Back when I was at the pinnacle of internet distraction I would go as far as Googling proxies to access my blacklisted sites. BlockList was just powerhouse tool I needed to help fully eliminate my distractions

Price: Free

LeechBlock

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Firefox

If you are a FireFox user, LeechBlock will be just the software you need to stay focus. This Firefox Add-On is quick and easy to install and takes seconds to set-up. Similar to StayFocused, this tool is very configurable, allowing you to set the times and days to block certain websites or redirect them to another site.

LeechBlock also features several customizable tabs to categorize how you want to block certain sites. If you want to go more hardcore you can change some of the advanced settings to make it impossible to unblock certain sites without reinstalling FireFox all together.

Price: Free

Focus Booster

What Does It Do: Blocks Apps, Distraction Websites
Supported Software: Mac, Windows

Focus Booster takes from the famous Promodoro Technique by allowing you to block applications for 25 minutes then gives you 5 minute breaks. Users will be able to set different types of tasks they want to focus on and what will need to be blocked during that time. Along with being able to block software, Focus Booster also allows you to track your sessions to see how you progress.

Price: Free for first 20 sessions, then costs $3-5/month

Self-Control

What Does It Do: Blocks Apps, E-mails, Distracting Websites
Supported Software: Mac

SelfControl is one of the more powerful software tools featured on this list. Mac users can download this program and set a timer to block E-mail Servers, Applications, and Websites. Once the software’s timer starts the blocker will not stop until time is up, even if you restart your machine.

Price: Free

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Time-Out

What Does It Do: Reminds You To Take Breaks
Supported Software: Mac

Unlike our previously software on the list, Time-Out doesn’t block distracting software. Users can set a time for how long they want to work on a task. Then, when the timer counts to 0, the screen will dim and a pop up notification will show up reminding you to take a break.During this break time, Time-Out users can type out anything on their mind while a progress bar appears below telling them how long the break will last. Time-Out’s break times can be configured to occur only on certain applications or during certain times.

Price: Free

FocusMe

What Does It Do: Blocks App, Distracting Websites
Supported Software:
Windows

FocusMe is an application similar to Self-Control. Users are able to make a list of different website and software they wish to block. A timer is then set making any of the listed items blocked until the timer reaches 0.

Price: 30-day free trial, Prices vary

Focus Lock

What Does It Do: Blocks Mobile Applications
Supported Software: Android

Focus Lock follows similar mechanics as Focus Booster. Once enabled, Focus Lock will block any applications for 25 minutes then provide 5 minute breaks. All you need is to add your applications to the black list and set your working times. If you try to open up the application during the block time you will see a App Locked screen.

Price: Free

Forest: Stay Focused

What Does It Do: Prevents You Using Your Phone
Supported Software: Android, iPhone

Recently release to the iTunes store, Forest: Stay Focused, has been an amazing game to help mobile users stay focused. The game’s mechanics are simple, you plant a seed and must wait 30 minutes for the seed to grow. Once the 30 minutes are up the plant will grow into a tree and can be planted in a plot of land. However, if you leave the app before the timer runs out the tree will wither away. A clever way to prevent users from touching their phones to check Facebook or play Games.

Price: Free

White Noise Free

What Does It Do: Provides White Noise
Supported Software: Android, iPhone

A lot of these items on the list have been software that is used to blocked distracting websites and software. White Noise Free works to block another distraction: A noisy workplace environment. This mobile app has over 40 different sounds that help mask any noises around you to create a quiet space. To get the best effect I would recommend using this application with headphones.

Price: Free

Have a favorite tool that wasn’t featured? Let me know in the comments!

How To Do The Most In A Day

Stop me if this rings a bell: It is the start of a new day, you take a look at all the things you have to-do today. You have a full day ahead of you to get things done.

Fast forward to later that evening. Your time to work is almost up, you still have so much left to do and the deadline to complete them is drawing near. You are likely going to be staying up late just to get them done in time. I know I had my fair share of those days

While I may have spent each day crossing off my tasks, taking minimal breaks each day, by the end of the day I had accomplished almost nothing meaningful. This was because I kept making the same mistake every single day:

I was making not making a SMART To-Do List.

If I wanted to make sure I was getting the most done each day I had to figure out a way to improve my To-Do List. Fortunately for me, I discovered a way that helped increased my productivity by 1000%.

What Makes A Good To-Do List?

As Charles Durhigg describes in, Smarter Faster Better, a To-Do List should have the most important task first. Although, many of us don’t do this and fall into a spiral of spending each day finishing the easiest tasks first while leaving the more essential ones unfinished.

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One of the reasons why we often don’t do the most important tasks first is because we tend to build our To-Do list, but do not consider why they’re on there in the first place. Sure, if I work on a task I would happy to have finished it, but is its purpose valuable enough to focus on?

Most of the time the answer is no. We like to think that completing the task is as equally rewarding as the others on our list, but what ends up happening is that we focus on the wrong tasks we want to complete.

We feel what is known as Authentic Pride, otherwise known as the joy given when we feel like we’re accomplishing something. However, this is not true authentic pride, rather a dopamine effect we get when we cross off a few items on our list.

While it is definitely beneficially to write down your To-Do list down on paper, or use an electronic To-Do builder like Habitica or To-Do Ist, this is almost meaningless if the list is built without a thoughtful approach.

To make the most impacting To-Do List, these three rules are essential:

  • There needs to be a reason for doing the tasks
  • It should follow your stretch goals
  • There needs to be flexibility

Building A Better To-Do List

In order to figure out what tasks we should focus on it’s a important to think about why we want to focus on them in the first place. Once each item does have a reason figured out, it becomes clearer which ones take precedence over the other.

To figure out what are the most important tasks to focus on, follow along with me with this simple exercise:

  1. Take out a sheet of paper or your favorite electronic note taking software
  2. Separate the list into two columns, one titled To-Dos the other titled Reason
  3. Write down all the things you want to complete by the end of the week in the To-Do column. (1 sentence is more than enough)
  4. Once you finish your To-Do column, review each item and write down why you want to do it in the Reason column. (Again, 1 sentence is more than enough)

Now that you have a clear idea of what each task is and your motivation for doing them, pick out the top four to five most meaningful tasks (sound familiar?) and put them onto another list. By now your list should look something like this:

SMARTGOALS

This list you have created is now what we call your Weekly Stretch Goals.These items on your list are not things you should expect to complete in one day rather they will be broken down to smaller tasks completed throughout the week.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create what is known as SMART Goals.

Defining SMART Goals

SMART goals have been a popular way of formatting To-Do List for quite some time now, and that is not surprising. When trying to plot out an effective To-Do List, SMART Goals can become an extremely practical tool to help plan that out. Some of you may be asking yourself,

“What are SMART Goals?”

SMART goals is an acronym used to define each item on a To-Do List and how needs to be worked on. It stands for:

  • Specific – What needs to be accomplished
  • Measurable – How the task will be broken down
  • Achievable – What needs to be done to fully focus
  • Realistic – How you plan on reaching this focus
  • Timeline – When it will be completed

To help illustrate this let me use an example of one stretch goals I have on my list:

Publish an Application on the Google Play Store

Right here I have a clear, Specific, goal of what I want accomplished by the end of the week. The next step is to divide up this project into smaller, Measurable, tasks that can be accomplished throughout the week:

  1. An interface needs to be designed
  2. The application needs to be coded
  3. The application needs to fully functional
  4. The application needs to be published

The next step is to formulate a plan on how I will achieve this. I am able to delegate 2-3 hours on this project on days I work, while the days I have off I can spend more time on the harder tasks. To make this Achievable, I have to schedule in what times are best suited to perform what tasks.

Now the only way to make this Realistic is if I define certain rules for myself to work on this task. During the time dedicated to the project I will be closing my e-mail, leaving my phone on silent, and only work on this task during the allocated tasks.

Break it down on a day-by-day basis, the Timeline would look something like this:

  • Day 1: Create project’s user interface
  • Day 2: Code the project to perform basic operations
  • Day 3: Add any additional features to the project
  • Day 4: Test and fix any bugs
  • Day 5: Finalize and publish

Writing this SMART goal took less than 2-3 minutes to complete. This task is now delegated from one huge project to much smaller, manageable, tasks that I can complete throughout the week. It also gives me a better idea of what I should be focusing on doing the day and what other items should be handled later.

Which leads me to the final component for building a To-Do List

Your To-Do List Should Be Flexible

One of the last, but most important parts of your To-Do list is that it needs to have room for flexibility. There are going to be days where something pops up and you can’t accomplish your To-Do list as expected. This doesn’t mean you should completely stop yourself from working towards your goals, instead that task should be revised to a fit a more realistic goal for the week.

A fundamental thing to keep in mind is that designing effective SMART Goals is not something that can be done once per week. SMART Goals should be created, then reviewed and updated daily.

This is because new To-Dos will always be popping up throughout the week and it is impossible to gauge your priorities days in advanced. I would personally recommend having two to-do lists. One that has your weekly SMART Goals, and one that has your every day goals.

Each day, before writing your daily To-Do list, spend some time thinking about what you need to accomplish for the day. Analyze how you plan on approaching each tasks. Richard Plepler, HBO’s CEO, does something similar to this by doing non-religious prayer 15 minutes a day. I personally spend 5 minutes a day meditating to go through what I need to do throughout the day.

Regardless of what mental exercise you plan on doing, remember to keep your SMART Goals in mind when creating your list.

Conclusion

I hope that this entry helped anyone who is struggling with their every day tasks.I know since changing how I do my To-Dos I have started seeing a noticeable increase in finishing my Challenge List goals.

Just to leave off, you do not have to do your To-Do lists in this exact format. Some people have different ways they approach tasks and that is perfectly fine.The important thing is to experiment with how to create To-Do list and see what works for you. For me, SMART goals have been a tremendous help to increase my productivity, for others, this may not be the case.

Whatever the case, just remember your To-Do list is not just how many items you cross off, but what you improve on when you do it. Stay strong, and keep pushing forward.